Friday, January 31, 2014

Chocolate Cream Pie II

I posted one of my favorite pie recipes recently, but last week I stumbled upon an easier, quicker and even more delicious chocolate pie. The answer: cream cheese. We made dinner for our friends who just had a baby and I wanted to include a dessert. Nothing says "welcome to this world" like chocolate, right? Well it was already the middle of the day when I thought about chocolate cream pie and I knew it wouldn't be ready in time, but that little morsel of logic wasn't fending off my now pulsing craving to have a slice of it immediately. So, a quick little search for "quick chocolate cream pie" and boom-my new go-to pie recipe.

Now, there's a time and a place for that other recipe, because it's smooth and velvety and classic. And way more impressive when you tell people how long it took you to make it. This pie has a bit more tang to it, (thank you, cream cheese) and is really rich and awesome. And takes less than a half hour to complete.

I found this recipe on, but it didn't include a crust recipe and was a little bit more runny than I wanted, so I added a few steps to make it smoother and more stable and used Martha Stewart's crust recipe.


25 chocolate wafers (I used gluten-free "Oreo" cookies and twisted off one side)
4 tablespoons melted butter
8 oz of cream cheese (softened and slightly warmed)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (optional but important for a stable pie)

1. Pulse the chocolate wafers in a food processor until they form coarse crumbs (or crush in ziplock bag). Stir in melted butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Press the mixture into an ungreased 9x9 pie plate and bake at 350 degrees or until pie is fragrant. Set aside to cool completely.

2. Stir the unflavored gelatin and 1 tablespoon of very hot water together until crystals dissolve in small bowl and set aside.

3. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, cocoa powder, milk and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy. (It's important for the cream cheese to be slightly warmed up so it breaks down better as you mix it. I microwaved mine in a bowl for about 20 seconds.) Stir in the gelatin until well-combined.

4. Press the pie through a sieve to eliminate any remaining cream cheese particles into the cooled pie crust and cover with plastic wrap before placing in the fridge to set. I served up this pie about two hours later and it was perfect and ready to eat! The original recipe says it's ready to serve immediately, but since I added gelatin in, I wanted to give it time to solidify.

Top with homemade whipped cream and garnish with chocolate shavings. And then bring it over to your friend's house and shamelessly take home a few slices for yourself. (Hey, she understood. She was very recently pregnant as well.)


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A big Christmas post.

I was a little too sad the past few weeks to post anything about Christmas (I mourn the holiday season until around Valentine's Day), but I suppose it's time to share a few pictures.

In the middle of December, our house had a last minute Christmas party. We live a few houses down from Christmas Tree lane, one of the many delightful parts of living in the historic district of downtown Oxnard. An entire residential block lavishes their homes in Christmas lights & decorations and people drive from all over town to stroll around and enjoy them. We thought it'd be fun to throw a party and serve up some hot chocolate before we all bundled up ( was 65 that night) to see the lights.

It was so much fun! We saw caroling pirates (who managed to stay in character even through some heckling which may or may not have come from me), a yard covered in (fake) snow and lots of very happy children pointing out every Christmas light they saw ("look it's SANTA"). It was festive and wonderful. And so fun to throw a party! I contributed to Cynthia's display of goodies by setting up a hot chocolate bar, complete with homemade marshmallows. Let's just say I'm never drinking that powdered garbage from a packet after sipping on creamy, velvety hot chocolate that took approximately two ingredients and three minutes to make.

The homemade marshmallows, on the other hand, were a bit of a commitment. I made a huge batch and gave some away in little treat bags to coworkers, but other than that it probably wasn't really worth the sticky mess. Matt didn't agree. He rarely raves about sweets, but he probably told me six different times how great the marshmallows were and how pepperminty and delicious it made his hot chocolate. So maybe my selective memory will forget how long I was scrubbing the goo-covered KitchenAid mixer and I'll make them again in the future.

Matt and I were incredibly blessed by my generous parents and got to spend a week in the Portland area between Christmas and New Years. We've never been in my hometown, together, for more than a day or two. It was delightful. We tried to keep the week relaxed so that it truly felt like a vacation and we didn't get home exhausted from a week of rushing around.

Christmas was perfect. It was our first Christmas with all the new members of the family (hopefully we didn't overwhelm poor Canadian Abram with our very American Christmas..) and probably the last one with us all together like that for a long time. And for Matt and me, our last Christmas with the two of us! (Who's going to hold the baby next year while I'm tearing through my stocking like a child? Any volunteers?)

I just have to say, I love the way my family does gifts. I'm always amazed. If it's not handmade or perfectly thrifted, it's incredibly thoughtful and deliberate. Rarely do we dislike something or return it. (I swear I like that maternity shirt, Mom!) For example, my sister made us all vanilla extract using beans from Kenya she steeped for like three months or something. Matt is in good company with our family, because he is a fantastic gift-giver as well. I feel really blessed to be so known and loved by our family. Matt and I are still talking about how generous and great our parents were to us over the holidays. Our son is going to have some pretty great grandparents!

Ashby and Abram left a couple days after Christmas, which was pretty sad. It's always a lot harder to say good bye to someone when you don't know when you'll see them next. I'm just so glad we got to spend the time with them that we did!

After that, we spent the rest of the week watching Christmas movies, eating way too many sweets and working on a puzzle (well, Matt and my mom worked on a puzzle, I contributed about three pieces). I even got to show Matt our mountain cabin! The family is very quick to correct me that it is not technically a "cabin" but a "river house" but hey. It's old, it's 15 minutes from a ski lodge, it has a wood burning stove as a heating device and we don't live there. So. It's a mountain cabin to me. Anyway, I've been wanting to take Matt there forever and we finally got the chance to! We insisted that my parents joined us and got to meet up with Brittney and her boyfriend Joshua up there too. A little cider-sipping, more puzzle-doing and my favorite part, a few rounds of Taboo. Easily the hardest I've laughed in months.

Here's the view from the deck. Insert fresh, crisp air, the rushing sounds of the river and the occasional hawk flying overhead. Maybe they're not hawks, who knows. Unfortunately, we missed the snow by a couple weeks, so we drove up to the ski lodge to catch a glimpse before heading back into town. I wish we would've had time for a mug of hot chocolate in the lodge, but I guess we'll just have to go back!

New Year's was really fun too! It's probably my least favorite holiday ever, because it's the mark of Christmas time ending and it revolves around staying up late, but we kept it low key this year and just hung out at the house with Bethany. We made some appetizers (namely fried olives, which I have been craving since approximately October), played a new game and ate delicious steak sandwiches & creme brulee that Matt whipped up. Of course I didn't make it until midnight without falling asleep on the couch with my mouth open, but Matt woke me up in time for a quick sip of sparkling cider, a kiss and to catch a glimpse of Miley Cyrus doing something absurd at Time's Square on TV. Any night involving steak sandwiches and Bethany is a party enough for us.

We were sad to go home the next day, but again, so blessed and thankful to be able to go at all! We got to sneak in some time with a couple friends but we were pretty protective over our time with family, so I'm sorry if I didn't get to see you! Lucky for us it's almost that time of year when everyone in the northwest gets stir crazy in the winter weather and starts scheduling visits down to see us. And by "us", I mean the 75 degree weather we're having. In the middle of January. I will never get use to that!

Thanks again for the trip, Mom and Dad!

Monday, January 6, 2014

We had an ultrasound on December 19th and they told us we were expecting a little boy! And good thing too, because we had been calling the baby "he" since I was about 12 weeks. Probably not the best idea, but I was so certain there was a little boy swimming around in there.  

We are delighted, to say the least. I don't think I've ever seen that much joy on Matt's face before. The ultrasound was so fun. We were seeing a specialist and he was spending plenty of time looking at our little one. At one point the doctor said "this is the most magnificent patient I've ever had". Patient. So cute. Apparently we have a very cooperative baby who is a natural at doing ultrasounds. The technician raved to the doctor at how well-behaved he was. The doctor agreed and then paused before saying "he's a little bouncy though. Which one of you is bouncy?" That would be me! Cooperative yet bouncy. The perfect combination of Matt and me. (I think we've told every person we've seen about that. Can you tell we're excited soon-to-be parents?) 

If it's possible, we fell more in love with that little baby after spending a half hour watching his every move. We left the doctor's office grinning and holding a long strip of 3D photos. I swear, he already looks exactly like Matt as a baby! 

On the ride home, Matt pried my phone out of my hand and convinced me to wait to tell our family the news in person. We were heading to the northwest a few days later to spend Christmas with them and he insisted I could wait. We were going to try to wait and tell them all together on Christmas Eve but we didn't make it that far. I'll admit, it was much better seeing their reactions in person than over speaker phone or Skype. 

I bought that sweet little pair of shoes posted above at a consignment store near my parents house. I just about melted when I saw them. It was the first thing I've bought our baby so far and I can't stop looking at them! It's hard to imagine that the little feet that kick me all day are going to be wearing those someday. 

We are so excited to have a first born son and I'm especially excited at the thought of having another pair of Matt's blue eyes to look into. But most importantly, I am so thankful to be having a normal and healthy pregnancy. Praise God! 

And also, praise God for the blissful second trimester. Everyone told me how great it was, but I kind of figured they were just saying that to make me feel better. They weren't! I feel awesome. Still pretty tired, but the nausea is gone and these days my only complaint is getting kicked in my always-full bladder by sweet, little feet. But that's still pretty cute. 

And welcome back, appetite! I missed you.